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Brew Your Own Vanilla Extract

Jennifer Burcke from 1840 Farm shares with us her homemade vanilla extract and sugar recipes.

Making your own vanilla extract puts you in complete control of the final product. You can choose the quality of the ingredients and determine the strength of your homemade extract. Making your own extract can also be a real money saver. For the price of a small bottle of premium extract from the store, you can create a steady supply of your own extract to use in your family’s favorite recipes.

Brewing a bottle full of delicious homemade vanilla extract is as simple as making a cup of tea. You’ll need:

  • A glass container with a tight fitting lid (I like to use 4-ounce or 8-ounce glass bottles with a rubber gasket and swing lid to keep them closed tightly.)
  • 2 vanilla bean pods for a 4-ounce bottle (4 pods for an 8-ounce bottle)
  • Vodka or bourbon

While I have used both vodka and bourbon, I prefer the vanilla extract made with vodka.  If you prefer, you can brew your extract using bourbon. The resulting extract will be equally delicious with a bit darker color and a slightly more intense aroma.

To Make Your Vanilla Extract:

Use a sharp knife to carefully split each vanilla bean lengthwise or cut them into lengths about two inches long. Place the beans in the clean empty bottle. Warm the vodka or bourbon then add it to the bottle. Allow the mixture to steep uncovered until it has cooled to room temperature. Replace the stopper or tight fitting lid before storing the bottle in a cool, dark place. I store my bottles of vanilla extract in the same cabinet with my olive oil as they thrive in similar conditions.

Gently agitating the bottle occasionally will help to distribute the vanilla beans throughout the liquid and facilitate the brewing vanilla extractprocess of the extract. In four to eight weeks, you will have a rich, delicious vanilla extract ready to use in your recipes. The longer the extract is allowed to brew, the more intense the flavor, color, and aroma will become.

When you reach the end of the first bottle of extract, you can refill it with warm vodka or bourbon and set it aside to brew a second time using the same vanilla bean pods. The second batch is often a bit lighter in color, but should be no less flavorful or aromatic. After the vanilla bean pods have brewed two batches of extract, they can be used to flavor custards and sauces or allowed to dry slightly before adding to a mason jar full of sugar to create a batch of delicious vanilla bean sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

To make a batch of vanilla bean sugar, simply tip the vanilla bean pods out of the empty bottle on to a paper towel or clean tea towel. Allow them to dry for several hours before placing them in a large Mason jar, covering them with granulated sugar, and placing a lid on the jar. In a matter of days, you will open the jar to find that the sugar has been infused with the aroma and flavor of the vanilla bean pods. This vanilla bean sugar is a delicious addition to your baked goods. I sprinkle it on top of muffins, sugar cookies, and my morning cappuccino.

No matter how you choose to use your homemade vanilla extract, you’re sure to enjoy its rich amber color, intense flavor, and delightful aroma as much as I do. You’ll be amazed at how delicious your favorite recipes taste with the addition of your homemade vanilla extract and vanilla bean sugar.

If you’d like to purchase a kit to make the process easier, I sell one in my Etsy shop.

Jennifer spends her days living and writing at 1840 Farm with three generations of her family and their dogs, chickens, ducks, goats, and rabbit. She loves to create homegrown recipes in their farmhouse kitchen and dream up new handmade products for their Etsy shop. You can follow their daily adventures on Facebook and enjoy a collection of homemade recipes on their blog.